Flatten and Merge Layers in
Photoshop Elements

What's the Difference?

In this tutorial we'll look at the difference between Flatten and Merge Layers in Photoshop Elements.

You'll see exactly how to use each command for different results.

There's a few different places in PS Elements that you can find the command to Flatten and Merge Layers. You'll discover where all of them are located.

This tutorial will also help with your understanding of Layers.



Watch the video below to see all the details. Under the video I give a summary of the important lessons from the video!










Important Lessons To Remember


LESSON ONE- Layers Allow You To Easily Change One Part Of Your Image Without Affecting The Other Parts.




LESSON TWO- There's Three Different Ways To Access The "Flatten" Command.

1. Right-click in the Layers Panel, from the pop-up, click Flatten.




2. Click on the Layers Panel drop-down menu and click on Flatten.




3. Go up to the Layer Menu and click on Flatten.




LESSON THREE- "Flatten" Combines All Of The Layers Into One Composite Layer.

The Layers Panel on the left in the screenshot below is how it looked before Flattening. All the parts of the image are on their own Layer and can be changed independently of the rest of the image.

The Layers Panel on the right is how it looks after Flattening. All the parts of the image are combined onto one single Layer.




LESSON FOUR- Access The "Merge" Command The Same 3 Ways As You Do For The "Flatten" Command.

So that's the what and how of Flattening Layers. Now we'll look at Merging Layers to help understand the difference between Flatten and Merge Layers.

1. Right-click in the Layers Panel, from the pop-up, click
    "Merge Down".


2. Click on the Layers Panel drop-down menu and click on
    "Merge Down".


3. Go up to the Layer Menu and click on "Merge Down".




LESSON FIVE- "Merge Down" Combines The Active Layer With The Layer Below It In The Layers Panel.

The Layers Panel on the left in the screenshot below is how it looked before Merge Down. The Layer named "head" and the Layer named "left hand" are on separate Layers.

The Layers Panel on the right is how it looks after Merge Down. Both "head" and "left hand" are on the same Layer.




LESSON SIX - Merge Multiple Layers.

You can Merge more than two Layers together.

To Merge multiple consecutive Layers in the Layers Panel, start by clicking on either the Layer at the top or the bottom of the consecutive group of Layers.

Let's say we want to Merge the 4 Layers in the Layers Panel named Purple line, Green line, White line, and vertical bar.


I'll start by clicking on the "Purple line" Layer to make it active. You can tell that it's active because it's highlighted in blue.


Next I'll hold down the shift key and click on the "vertical bar" Layer.

When I do, the "vertical bar" Layer and any Layers between the first Layer I clicked on (Purple line) and "vertical bar" become active Layers as indicated by the blue highlight.


Now when I go up to the Layer Menu to choose Merge Down, I see that the wording has changed to "Merge Layers" because I have more than one Layer active in the Layers Panel.


When I click on "Merge Layers" those 4 active Layers are all merged onto 1 Layer (the Purple line) in the Layers Panel.


If you want to Merge non-consecutive Layers, first click on one of the Layers you want to be included in the Merge.


Then hold down the Command Key on a Mac or the Control Key on a PC as you click on any other Layers that you want to be included in the Merge to make them active in the Layers Panel.

For this example I'm going to Merge the "head" Layer and the "right hand" Layer. So I'll hold down the Command or Control key and click on the "right hand" Layer to make it active.


Now that those 2 Layers are active I can use the keyboard shortcut for Merge Layers: Command-E on a Mac or Control-E on a PC.

When I do, both of those Layers are Merged together on the "head" Layer.

LESSON SEVEN- Merge Visible.

There's another Merge option in the Layer Menu (and the 2 drop-down menus from the Layers Panel). It's called Merge Visible.

Notice there's also a keyboard shortcut: Shift-Command-E on a Mac or Shift-Control-E on a PC.

This Merge option works based on which Layers have their visibility turned on in the Layers Panel. By default a Layer's visibility is turned on.

You can tell which Layers have their visibility turned on or off by looking at the Eye on their Layer in the Layers Panel.

Look at the 3 Layers at the top of the Layers Panel in the screen capture below. The ones named "head", "left hand", and "right hand". The red arrows show where the contents of each of those Layers is in the Active Image Area.

Notice what the Eyes look like for each of those 3 Layers. I put a red square around each of them to draw your attention to them. That's what it looks like when the visibility of a Layer is turned on.


Now let's turn the visibility off for the "head" Layer and the "right hand" Layer. We can do that by clicking directly on their Eye in the Layers Panel.

When you do click on the Eye a red diagonal line appears through the Eye indicating that the Layer's visibility is turned off.

When a Layers visibility is turned off, the contents of that Layer is no longer visible in the Active Image Area.

I put the red squares there to indicate where the contents of those Layers were in the Active Image Area. Now that we turned off the visibility of those 2 Layers they no longer appear in the Active Image Area.


Now if I go to the Layer Menu and choose Merge Visible, what do you think will happen in the Layers Panel?

Right! Every Layer will be combined onto one single Layer except for the 2 Layers ("head" and "right hand") that are not visible. And that's exactly what we see in the screen capture below.


There's one way that Flatten and Merge Layers give exactly the same results. That is when you have the visibility turned on for every single Layer in the Layers Panel and then you choose "Merge Visible". All of your Layers will be combined into one single Layer, just like when you Flatten an image.




And that completes this tutorial about the difference between Flatten and Merge Layers in Photoshop Elements.

I hope you found it helpful.

Until next time . . .

Take care!
Rick Peterson







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